An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE AGRICULTURAL PEASANTS IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

1. THE LANDOWNERS' PEASANTS

PEASANTRY of all classes were divided into two main groups in respect to the method by which they met their obligations to the pomyetschēk or landowner to whom they belonged. These were the peasants working on obròk or the obrochny peasants, and those who rendered bartschina or obligatory labour. A subsidiary group was composed of those who, while paying obròk, also rendered some bartschina days, working in summer on bartschina and in winter earning in order to pay their obròk.1 The first group predominated in the non-Black Soil guberni; e.g. in Yaroslavskayagub. there were among the peasants 78 per cent. of obrochny and in Kostromskaya gub. 85 per cent. The reason for this large proportion seems to have been that in these guberni handicrafts had developed more than elsewhere, the peasants being driven to these because of the ineconomical character of their agriculture. While the peasants often practised their handicrafts in the villages, selling their products in the local markets or to itinerant vendors, they sometimes went to other villages or to the towns, where they were able to earn money by hiring themselves. Their interest thus lay in making obròk contracts with their owners; and the interest of the owners lay in allowing them to do so. In the gubernie of Pskov on the other hand, the number of peasants paying obròk was only 21 per cent. In all the thirteen guberni of European Russia, at the time of Katherine II, 55 per cent. of the peasants paid obròk. In addition to the two groups of peasants, one paying obròk and the other bartschina, there was a third group which consisted of dvorovie

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1
Such cases were, however, rare. Cf. Ignatovich E. E., Pomyetschēkē Peasants on the Eve of Emancipation ( Moscow, 1910). p. 78, and Semevsky, op. cit., i. p. 47.

-194-

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